PSEG Long Island made good on a promise to do more with less in its green-energy programs in 2014, setting records for reducing electric demand while saving more energy through big increases in solar power and the promotion of more efficient lighting, according to a new report.
The increases came despite a $10 million reduction in the budget for the renewable and efficiency programs in 2014 compared to the prior year, according to the report by Opinion Dynamics of Boston.
The programs, many begun over the past decade by LIPA, "continued to demonstrate strong performance in 2014, providing substantial capacity and energy savings in a cost-effective manner," while "exceeding" goals, the report said.
In 2014, PSEG's green-energy programs produced a record 298,210 megawatt hours of energy savings through programs and rebates for LED lighting, Energy Star homes and other energy-saving methods. That reduction of power-plant use was the equivalent of taking 33,500 cars off the road, Opinion Dynamics said.
One big contributor was PSEG-rebated residential and commercial solar installations, which more than doubled last year to a record 3,408 from 1,625 in 2013.
The solar growth, partly driven by state programs such as on-bill financing and an influx of leased systems, continues in 2015. PSEG expects to end 2015 with 6,000 more rebated solar rooftops, pushing the islandwide total to more than 16,945 by the end of December.
Energy efficiency programs, meanwhile, achieved a 70-megawatt savings in customer demand in 2014, compared with 65.2 megawatts in 2013. The increase was driven largely by the wide adoption of efficient lighting products, primarily LED lightbulbs and fixtures and energy-saving pool pumps, the report said.
PSEG in 2014 reduced LIPA's budget for efficiency and renewables programs to $82 million from $105 million in 2013. But 2014 had the benefit of a $10.4 million infusion from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which created a new block program to fund rebates for solar power.
This year's budget for the programs rose to $83.9 million, and will continue to rise the next three years, PSEG says, if a rate-hike request is approved: to $87.5 million in 2016, $89.6 million in 2017 and $91.8 million in 2018.
A PSEG spokesman said the company "will continue to grow [the programs] and meet or exceed the goals we have in front of us."
But one expert found the results unimpressive. "PSEG and LIPA have set low and inadequate goals and then failed to meet their own test in many categories," said Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, an environmental group.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the stellar growth of the solar market on Long Island is primarily driven by lower solar panel prices along with attractive leasing and financing options," Raacke said.